Thursday, 13 March 2014

Everyday Venice and breath-taking Tintorettos

Cities as a state of mind: something that's always interested me. Everyone brings something different and has different expectations. For me, Venice is so visually charged that it's almost impossible to take in.
All I really want to do is ride up and down the Grand Canal on a vaporetto.
Or sit with a coffee on the Zattere. Made myself dizzy with too many.
(Someone says that everyone - i.e. every visiting person - attachs themselves to a place or area in Venice. Mine is Dorsoduro. 'People say Caraveggio is best....' 'Why?" "Because it's not so touristy... that's where there are a lot of family-owned restaurants.')
My attachment is totally arbitrary - where I ended up a couple of years ago in a friend's flat.
So aim must be to force myself out of this comfort zone - and look at something different every day.
Spend an hour or two writing emails in the unbelievably wonderful B and B.... where there is even a piano to play while waiting for the croissants to warm. They are filled with apricot jam.
Then the Scuola di San Rocco, which is just around the corner. People have often said to me oh of course San Rocco - you have seen San Rocco, of course, haven't you. But I hadn't. The guide book said something about Tintoretto's Sistine Chapel - which of course I didn't believe. But I literally caught my breath when I saw the upstairs hall. Tintoretto sweeps you away. So much movement, perspective and passion - and in the telling of Biblical stories (what would this mean, I wonder, to people who had no knowledge of Christianity?)

What paintings. 1560-1580. Tintoretto, like John Donne - how many years separated them? - knew a thing or two about the pleasures of the flesh.... Real temptation here...
Then the drama - the monumental composition - -the perspectives and emotion. Moses drawing water from a rock...
The Crucifixion, in an adjoining room, could take a day to see.
 I only looked at the carvings as an afterthought. They were added later.
But I really want a pair of those cowboy boots. By Pianto - 17th century.

So.... I am not the only person to be blown away by Tintoretto. Mary McCarthy in her dry, analytical, New Yorker way intimates that it's a really common experience.... 'he's the literary amateur's painter'  and little does the awed visitor know, she remarks, that these same Tintorettos are looked down upon by serious art critics. Not for the first time - I don't really care about that, or for the views of professional critics (and to give Mary her due, she says she likes the Tintorettos, too).

She really nails down what is amazing about these paintings, too many and too astonishing to take in on just one visit.

"One's admiration is given more, possibly, to the conception of a Tintoretto than to its realisation. He writes large what he means to convey; that is why we amateurs respond to the 'terrific' effects of The Last Supper, The Crucifixion, The Manger, The Annunciation. We see at once what he is up to; the unleashing of a supernatural event that strikes into ordinary life like a cyclone, knocking everything askew, tilting tables and crockery, so that everything seems to be sliding, as in a house carried away by a wind or a flood."  Venice Observed/Mary McCarthy

Henry James/Italian Hours on Tintoretto's Crucifixion:
"It is true that in looking at this huge composition you look at many pictures; it has not only a multitude of figures but a wealth of episodes; and you pass from one of these to the other as if you were 'doing' a gallery. Surely no single picture in the world contains more of human life; there is everything in it, including the most exquisite bueaty. It is one of the greatest thingsof art; it is always interesting. There are works of the artist which contain touches more exquisite, revelations of beauty more radiant, but there is no other vision of so intense a reality, an execution so splendid."

Reading and watching

  • Foot by Foot to Santiago de Compostela/Judy Foot
  • The Testament of Mary with Fiona Shaw at the Barbican
  • The Testament of Mary/Colm Toibin
  • Schwanengesang/Schubert - Tony Spence
  • Journals/Robert Falcon Scott
  • Fugitive Pieces/Ann Michaels
  • Unless/Carol Shields
  • Faust/Royal Opera House
  • The Art of Travel/Alain de Botton
  • Mad Men Series 6
  • A Week at The Airport/Alain de Botton
  • The Railway Man/Eric Lomax
  • Bright Lights, Big City/Jay McInerney
  • Stones of Venice/John Ruskin
  • The Sea, the Sea/Iris Murdoch
  • Childe Harold/Lord Byron
  • All The Pretty Horses/Cormac McCarthy
  • Extreme Rambling/Mark Thomas
  • Story of my Life/Jay McInerney
  • Venice Observed/Mary McCarthy